It is a delight to find and photograph one on the wing. Although they will also nest in hayfields, swamps, and other wet upland habitats, Red-winged Blackbirds are primarily associated with freshwater marshes. This blackbird's breeding range extends from northern Canada to Central America. Some populations in the southern parts of the range are nonmigratory, but almost all northern birds winter in the south, forming huge flocks that migrate by day, foraging for grain and seeds in fields with other blackbirds. They roost at night in dense cover in wetland habitats. I personally have seen the sky pink and red with hundreds of blackbirds flying out of the wetlands, migrating in the Fall, just a wondrous sight to behold from my canoe.
Their courtship displays and territorial defenses are identical: they spread their tail and wings, raising their scarlet epaulet feathers, and sing their familiar oak-a-lee song. This display is sometimes given in flight. At other times, the red epaulets remain covered to avoid conflict with other males – for instance with a trespassing male or if the male is in the early stages of establishing his territory. Red-winged Blackbirds are fierce
defenders of their nests, harassing hawks, crows, and other large birds that pass over; and escorting human intruders through their territories, hovering close and making angry calls.